Painting en plein air
Sharon Crute, “Past Meets Present,” oil, 16 x 20 in.

Editor’s Note: When one of our readers, Sharon Crute, read about Poppy Balser’s favorite place to paint en plein air, she was inspired to share with us her own treasured spot. Let’s keep the conversation going; read Sharon’s story here and email us with your story ([email protected]) — be sure to include a couple of photos and your website!

By Sharon Crute

My favorite place to paint is at the Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York. The track races for 40 days beginning in mid-July and ending on Labor Day. In addition to being an artist vendor for the entire meet, I try to plein air paint in the early mornings at one of the two stable areas.

The track is over 150 years old and has hosted the best horses, jockeys, trainers, and owners throughout its history. The best have raced here, including Man o’ War, Secretariat and more recently, American Pharoah. My favorite painting spot is the Oklahoma stable area, the older of the two. The barns are original and well-maintained and remnants of the very first track are still in existence.

Plein air equine art
Sharon Crute, “Leah’s Barn,” oil on panel, 8 x 10 in.
Sharon painted “Leah’s Barn” in the main stable area. “It was built in the early twentieth century,” she says, “but still possesses its own spectacular beauty.”

It’s an extremely busy time for me, but I do my best to get up early to paint outdoors for a couple of hours before going over to my booth for the rest of the day. The air is pristine, there are many huge old trees, and the cool nights create ground fog, which produces spectacular light effects as the sun rises. And of course there are the people and horses bustling with activity as they go through their morning training routines.

I have attached a couple of painting I painted plein air at both stable areas. In the first one (Oklahoma), “Past Meets Present,” (at top) an Italian exercise boy sneaks down to the end of the barn for a quick smoke and to check his cell during a break. His boss came over to check my progress as I painted, and recognized his rider who then got busted! An old timer told me that the first stall once housed Man o’ War. How true is that? Whether it is or isn’t, it’s still a great story.

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